– Leos Carax, Andrea Arnold and Audrey Diwan head our round-up of the coming year’s cinematic treats
From the below list of 20 titles, we can feel confident that the majority are contenders for the Cannes, Berlin and Venice competitions, with the others propping up other sections or showing elsewhere. Whilst previous years saw legends in the twilight era of their career swinging back, the next 12 months should be characterised by previous up-and-comers in mid-career maturity, often working on ambitious transnational projects, as they comfortably define this age of cinema. But as ever, what could potentially blow us away might be nowhere to be found on this list – the exceptions, rather than those that prove the status quo, which might foment change or reignite a particular national cinema.
Contrasting with the exclusively anglophone industry – rocked by the strikes and buoyed by Barbenheimer making traditional cinema exhibition feel like an event again – the European sector is more secure, with theatrical grosses rising from 2022, if not yet competing with the pre-COVID years. Anatomy of a Fall [+see also:
interview: Justine Triet
film profile], the Cineuropa writers’ number-one film of 2023 (see the news), smashed expectations at the French box office; still, a scenario where festival successes can more consistently thrive outside that bubble is a work in progress.
Beyond our lucky 20, also worth looking out for are Olivier Assayas’s Suspended Time, Kirill Serebrennikov’s Limonov, The Ballad of Eddie (see the news) and Disappearance, Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Scottish-shot comeback Harvest (see the news), Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s French production Serpent’s Path, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s The Devil’s Bath, Ali Abbasi’s young-Trump portrait The Apprentice (see the news), Alain Guiraudie’s Miséricorde (see the news), the resurgent Patricia Mazuy’s Portraits Trompeurs (see the news), Emmanuel Mouret’s An Honest Woman, Cannes winner Payal Kapadia’s All We Imagine as Light, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Reflection in a Dead Diamond, Teresa Villaverde’s Justa, Petr Kazda and Tomás Weinreb’s Nikdo me nemá rád, Tilman Singer’s horror Cuckoo (premiering at the Berlinale), Nicolas Philibert’s Averroes & Rosa Parks (a direct follow-up to his Golden Bear victor On the Adamant [+see also:
interview: Nicolas Philibert
film profile]), and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s untitled Sri Lankan-shot film, if it’s ready.
Bird – Andrea Arnold (UK/USA/France)
Andrea Arnold, 1. Has a bee in her bonnet for one-word titles referencing animals, culminating in this new one; 2. Has become a less-than-prolific fiction director, building up further anticipation between projects. All we know about Bird to date is that it’s set in her hometown of Kent, in South-East England, and has Barry Keoghan (seen riding a dirt bike shirtless in leaked set photos) and Franz Rogowski in lead parts.
Emilia Perez – Jacques Audiard (USA/Mexico/France)
Paris, 13th District [+see also:
film profile], Audiard’s last film, brought a burst of youthfulness and a more feminine focus for the veteran director; this continues with the dottily plotted Emilia Perez, focusing on a Mexican cartel boss (trans actress Karla Sofia Gascón), who seeks the ultimate escape route from crime: becoming the woman he’s always dreamed of. Zoe Saldana, popster Selena Gomez and Édgar Ramírez round off the cast, and hey, it’s a musical, too.
C’est pas moi – Leos Carax (France)
A cinematic self-portrait from the elusive maestro, “revisiting more than 40 years of the author’s filmography, while capturing the political tremors of the time”, as its producer, CG Cinema, puts it. Plus, it’s reported to be under an hour long. Look out for the third cinematic appearance of one of Carax’s and Denis Levant’s signature freaks, the one and only Monsieur Merde.
Dahomey – Mati Diop (France)
French “cool” bible Les Inrockuptibles provided a new update on Diop’s follow-up to the Cannes-crowned Atlantics [+see also:
interview: Mati Diop
film profile], seemingly verified by the director herself on Instagram. Dahomey (formerly known as Le Retour), named after an ancient West African kingdom conquered by the French in the late 19th century, will mix fiction and documentary as it tells the story of the plundered African artworks repatriated from French museums to their original countries.
Emmanuelle – Audrey Diwan (France)
French cinema’s belated feminist awakening continues with Golden Lion victor Audrey Diwan’s anticipated Emmanuelle, an adaptation of Emmanuelle Arsan’s cause célèbre 1967 erotic novel, of course previously made into a notorious softcore franchise in the 1970s. Noémie Merlant inhabits the title role, with Naomi Watts recently announced as support, bringing with her the association of Mulholland Drive and its particular female gaze.
The Empire – Bruno Dumont (France/Germany/Italy/Belgium)
A sort of “culmination” film from the intrepid Bruno Dumont, assembling one of his starriest casts (with Camille Cottin and Lyna Khoudri on board) to date, alongside the assorted, unfortunate Nord-based non-professionals he loves to gather, for an unabashed Game of Thrones– and Star Wars-inspired space opera. Already infamously, the #MeToo and cancel-culture gags in the script led one-time lead Adèle Haenel to depart the project (see the news).
Grand Tour – Miguel Gomes (Portugal/France/Italy/Japan/China/Germany)
Grand Tour feels doused in Miguel Gomes’ particular romanticism and eccentric engagement with obscure pockets of history: a British civil servant (Gonçalo Waddington) in the Burma of 1917 runs away from his fiancée, Molly (Crista Alfaiate), departing on a, well, “grand tour” of the Asia of that time. Intrigued, and still determined to get married, Molly follows him herself (see the news).
Dao – Alain Gomis (France/Senegal/Guinea-Bissau)
Alain Gomis’s Berlinale Forum-premiering Rewind & Play [+see also:
interview: Alain Gomis
film profile], a poignant deconstruction of an ill-fated French TV appearance by jazz legend Thelonious Monk, saw much acclaim and travel; many will be intrigued by Dao, his official return to fiction, which apparently will still incorporate documentary elements. As Gloria (Béa Mendy) prepares to marry off her daughter in the Paris banlieue of today, her mind is cast back to a ceremony consecrating her dead father in Guinea-Bissau; as past and present collide, she “reconciles with her history, [and] finds her place” (see the news).
Queer – Luca Guadagnino (Italy/USA)
Pouncing on Daniel Craig now that his schedule is a bit lighter and maybe cleared for more adventurous fare, Luca Guadagnino has given him the task of playing William S Burroughs’ alter-ego in an adaptation of his short novel Queer. The Cinecittà soundstage in Rome was turned into a likely drug-flecked Mexico City for the occasion, sounding not dissimilar to the studio-bound Tangier in the 1991 Naked Lunch film, from Luca’s other hero David Cronenberg.
Those Who Find Me – Dea Kulumbegashvili (Georgia/France)
An alternative, pandemic-free timeline might have seen Georgian filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili shocking and triumphing on the Croisette for her Cannes label-selected Beginning [+see also:
interview: Dea Kulumbegashvili
film profile]. She could well have a renewed opportunity this year with this “searing” portrait of an obstetrician-gynaecologist, suddenly accused of negligence in her provincial town, resulting in what its sales agent, Goodfellas, calls a “timeliness and universal ode to womanhood”.
Dry Leaf – Alexandre Koberidze (Germany/Georgia)
My, did people love the street dogs of Kutaisi in Alexandre Koberidze’s last feature, What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? [+see also:
interview: Alexandre Koberidze
film profile], who wandered over to watch the 2018 World Cup in the town’s beer gardens, as one does. The director, at the sharpest tip of a new wave of Georgian cinema, gladly returns to the football theme (where he almost made the grade as a professional), as he tracks the mystery of a young photographer of local-league stadiums who goes missing.
Kinds of Kindness – Yorgos Lanthimos (USA/UK/Ireland)
Returning to an original screenplay co-penned with Efthimis Filippou set in the present moment, this US-set anthology film with Emma Stone and Jesse Plemons should find Lanthimos fully in control of his newly honed crowd-pleasing instincts. The anthology format has been the undoing of his colleagues recently, Wes Anderson most notably, but his spin – whereby the actors will play different characters in each segment – might suit it best.
Hard Truths – Mike Leigh (UK/Spain)
Like the previous British film on this list, for concrete plot details we have sheer nada – only the promise of a great and influential director coming back strong after an absence of a few years. After two set in the Victorian era (ending with the surprisingly alienating Peterloo [+see also:
interview: Mike Leigh
film profile], famously rejected by Cannes and the NYFF), we’re back with what is pitched as a look at “modern Britain”, seen through a post-pandemic lens, with its finest character actors on board to frown whilst clad in chunky jumpers.
Chocobar – Lucrecia Martel (Argentina/Mexico/USA/Denmark)
Lucrecia Martel’s long-in-the-works “hybrid, creative” documentary appears on our list again, with reports suggesting it’s finally complete and ready for a festival launch this year. Following the assassination of indigenous-rights activist Javier Chocobar, “the work unravels the 500 years of ‘reason’ that led to this shooting, both with a gun and a camera, and contextualises it in the land-tenure system that emerged across Latin America”.
Blitz – Steve McQueen (UK/USA)
In a certain sense, this could be regarded as a follow-up to Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon, the first from Apple Studios’ investment in major feature films, both of which also excelled this year with a long theatrical window that helped prove that platform titles could healthily co-exist in that space. Initial word from test screenings has been good for McQueen’s epic study of the World War II bombings of Britain, fortifying its famous “blitz spirit” (see the news).
On Becoming a Guinea Fowl – Rungano Nyoni (UK/Zambia/Ireland)
Nyoni’s BAFTA-winning debut, I Am Not a Witch [+see also:
interview: Rungano Nyoni
film profile], a 2017 Directors’ Fortnight premiere, felt fresh and original, unlike countless festival features of its ilk. Her appearance on last year’s Cannes main competition jury indicated how the industry is excited for her next moves, and she levels up on this feature with Irish producers Element Pictures, the outfit behind Normal People as well as Yorgos Lanthimos’ and Joanna Hogg’s recent work.
The End – Joshua Oppenheimer (USA/Ireland/Germany/Denmark)
The director was born in Texas and grew up in Washington, DC, and made the unforgettable docs The Act of Killing [+see also:
film profile] and The Look of Silence [+see also:
film profile] in Indonesia, yet he resides in Copenhagen, and his anticipated new feature was shot in Ireland with a largely British cast (including Tilda Swinton). It’s a musical about a wealthy family sequestering in an underground bunker, fleeing the apocalypse they helped set in motion. The composers of the songs have not been announced, so let’s hope they’re good (see the news).
Estela de sombra – Carlos Reygadas (Mexico/Poland)
As is customary for recent Reygadas projects, not much is known about this one (whose title translates as “Trail of Shadows” from the Spanish), beyond the fact that it was partially shot and funded in Poland. What could the famed festival shockmeister be cooking up?
Black Tea – Abderrahmane Sissako (France/Luxembourg/Mauritania)
One of the greats of recent African cinema, the Mauritanian director will finally follow up his Oscar-nominated Timbuktu [+see also:
film profile] with this Chinese-set drama, following Aya (Nina Melo), a young Ivorian who starts a new life in the country after jilting her fiancé on their wedding day. She then falls for Cai, her colleague at a tea export shop, but can the affair withstand the burden of their pasts, and other people’s prejudice? With a French release in late February, expect this at the Berlinale.
Parthenope – Paolo Sorrentino (Italy/France)
At the risk of being glib, the latest by Paolo Sorrentino, one of the best loved of his generation, feels like a The Great Beauty [+see also:
interview: Paolo Sorrentino
film profile] mounted for his home city of Naples, mythologised amidst his own past in The Hand of God [+see also:
interview: Paolo Sorrentino
film profile]. Named for the siren from the Odyssey, it will track the title character, “who bears the name of her city”, from her birth in 1950 to the present day. Her life “embodies the full repertoire of human existence”, as Sorrentino puts it. The brilliantly rumpled Gary Oldman will also feature in a small role.